Shenise Johnson

WATCH: Shenise Johnson serves up huge rejection to Anna Cruz

Bookmark and Share

Shenise Johnson continues to surprise for Fever

Those who know Shenise Johnson might tell you they saw it coming. They saw potential in the girl they called “Moe-Moe,” the college woman who so desperately wanted to become great, the first-round draft pick who was so ambitious.

It’s never as inevitable as all that, though. The teenager was once kicked off the team. The college freshman was not in shape and not that skilled. The young pro chafed under a subordinate role.

Finally, the “Moe-train” is picking up speed and staying on track.

“I’ve been praying for this day, I have to say,” said her mother, Michelle Reeves.

Shenise Monet Johnson — the Moe-Moe comes from her middle name — has been perhaps the biggest surprise on an Indiana Fever team that has made a surprise run to the WNBA Finals. The best-of-five series against the Minnesota Lynx is tied 1-1 heading into Friday’s Game 3 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse (8 p.m., ESPN2).

Johnson’s fiery nature was manifested late in Game 2 when she ran into a hard screen, had to leave the game and slammed the scorer’s table. That action resulted in the Fever’s fourth technical foul of the Finals. In the locker room afterward, Johnson said she was OK.

Johnson, 24, a 5-11 guard, was acquired from the San Antonio Stars in a February trade for two draft picks. In the regular season, she was second on the Fever in scoring (10.9), rebounding (4.9), assists (2.4) and 3-point percentage (.413). She was second in voting for the league’s Most Improved Player.

In eight playoff games, she is averaging 11.8 points.

“I waited my whole life for this moment,” she said. “Being traded from a different team, you have a chip on your shoulder a little bit.”

She has been everything Fever executive Kelly Krauskopf thought she could be. Johnson is on a path to becoming an All-Star as soon as next season.

“And the other thing is, she is not even there yet,” Krauskopf said. “This girl can be really good. This is her first year in the WNBA to play at this level.”

Johnson was raised by a single mother in Rochester, N.Y. She was often cared for by older sister Shawntalae, also a basketball player. Johnson spent summers in Detroit with her father, Dan Johnson, a former college football player.

Johnson’s mother said her daughter was suspended from the team as an eighth-grader for involvement in a fight at school. From that moment, the mother said, Johnson stayed out of such trouble.

Johnson, in turn, said her mother has been an inspiration. Reeves worked all day and attended school at night in supporting Johnson and two siblings.

“Tenacity, determination … you never knew when she was tired,” Johnson said, “because she always had a smile on her face. I love her for that.”

Her maternal grandfather is Jerry McCullough, a bishop of Faith Temple Apostolic Church and a Rochester civil rights leader. Her grandmother is Maggie Davis McCullough, a co-pastor of that church. They are “the rock” behind the family, Johnson’s mother said.

The mother said Johnson was lazy about schoolwork until she understood where basketball could take her. She then earned “A’s and B’s overnight,” her mother said.

Johnson led Rush-Henrietta High School to three state championships, was a McDonald’s All American and New York’s 2008 Miss Basketball.

“She definitely could have been a ‘what if’ story, and thankfully she’s not,” said Steve Shepanski, her high school coach.

Johnson chose a college far from home, settling on Miami (Fla.), where she felt a connection to the coach, Katie Meier, and assistant Carolyn Kieger.

Kieger, now the Marquette head coach, was a guard at her alma mater and charged with developing backcourt players at Miami. Johnson was more power forward than guard when she took her talents to South Beach.  All she needed was to have her competitiveness channeled, Kieger said.

“She was a perfectionist in everything she did,” Kieger said. “As soon as that happened, we knew she was special.”

Kieger kept her on task: Show up at 7 a.m.  Work on ballhandling. Shoot more 3-pointers.

It was almost as if she were coaching a pro player already, Kieger recalled. The coach said she quit pushing Johnson after two years because the player was so demanding of herself.

“There’s a lot of people who make these goals. But their work habits don’t match up,” Kieger said.

After Johnson’s freshman year, she played for a USA Basketball team that won a gold medal in the under-19 World Championship. She averaged 19.6 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists as a junior, when she was Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year, and had respective figures of 17.0/8.0/4.4 as a senior.

The Fever often scouted Johnson. Before they could draft her in 2012, she went as the No. 5 selection to San Antonio. Johnson averaged 11.0 points in her second year but saw minutes and productivity decline in her third year.

Given a second chance, the Fever acquired her. She has “found a rhythm in our system,” Fever coach Stephanie White said.

In her second WNBA chance, Johnson has become who everyone thought she would be. She reflected on calls, tweets and texts she has received from family, friends and mentors. Their message:

"This is what you were made for,” she said.

Bookmark and Share

A more mature Shenise Johnson makes an immediate impact for Indiana

MINNEAPOLIS -- Indiana guard Shenise Johnson writes poems that are sometimes meant to last and other that are meant to go away shortly after they're created.

"I like to express myself as an outlet, a stress-reliever. So I'm not punching walls or doing anything like that," she said, chuckling. "It allows you to evaluate, to write something down and release it.

"Then, it's over and done with and I can do what I please with it. I can throw it out, burn it, or I could keep it and reread it."

Johnson has been an important part of the puzzle in her first season in Indiana. After three seasons of never quite being comfortable with her role or her future in San Antonio, the team that drafted her No. 5 in 2012, Johnson has clicked into place with the Fever.

She had 10 points, five rebounds and three assists in Indiana's 75-69 Game 1 victory Sunday over Minnesota in the WNBA Finals. Those are numbers that almost exactly match what Johnson, a 5-foot-11 guard, brought to the Fever throughout the regular season. And it's what the Fever can expect from her in Tuesday's Game 2 (ESPN2, 8 p.m. ET).

"Throughout my career, I pride myself in being consistent and efficient," Johnson said. "I'm not really a volume shooter. Overall I have more of an opportunity here in Indiana. There are times I have to be aggressive, so I pick and choose my spots. At the same time, I'm a playmaker, not just a scorer."

Johnson was obtained in a trade in March, as the Fever sent 2015 first- and third-round picks to the Stars. The first pick turned out to be No. 6 Dearica Hamby, who averaged 6.1 points and 4.1 rebounds, showing promise as a rookie in San Antonio. The other pick, No. 30 Dragana Stankovic of Serbia, didn't play in the WNBA this year.

In return, Indiana got a full-time starter at guard who brought quickness and a multidimensional game. By any measure, the trade has turned out very well for the Fever and for Johnson.

"This is what we hoped for," Indiana coach Stephanie White said. "You think about her potential in the open floor and to create shots. She does a good job of not only making plays for herself but for others, too.

"The biggest thing -- and the most proud I am of her -- is just her growth on the defensive end. Her attention to it, her urgency about it, how she values it. Because in the beginning of the year, that was more her struggle. We certainly expected the offensive output that she's had, and I am very happy about the defensive end."

That's the type of player Johnson has wanted to be for a long time. She grew up in Rochester, New York, but would visit her father in the summer in Detroit and go see Shock games when the franchise was still located in the Motor City.

"Deanna Nolan played both sides of the floor so well," Johnson said of the former Shock standout. "She had that pull-up, midrange game and could go to the basket. And she played defense. I want to be known for doing both."

As a youngster, though, Johnson missed her dad not being nearby back in Rochester. She had a certain edge to her, a defensiveness and anger that was really about self-preservation. It resulted in some difficulties getting along on teams. Sometimes, she'll readily admit now, she didn't do herself any favors.

It wasn't really until her senior year in high school that she fully realized the educational opportunities that were available through basketball. She knew she had to dial down some of her angst. It was fuel for her, but it could also burn her.

"Like, how much is enough?" Johnson said. "You realize, these people -- the coaches, the teachers -- they're not your enemy. You have to figure out who the enemy is, or if there is one at all. That's something I had to mature and grow into."

All of which is why she chose a college so far from Rochester: the University of Miami. She could have gone to Syracuse, or someplace else relatively close. But she wanted to be on her own in a new environment. Hurricanes coach Katie Meier and her staff meshed well with Johnson.

"I pushed for it; you have to go where your gut and your spirit connect to," Johnson said. "Katie -- from a genuine standpoint, building character not only on the basketball court but off -- was really important to me. Because those things were really important to her, too."

Johnson was a three-time All-ACC first-team pick and started all 131 games of her Miami career. She finished with 2,262 points (17.3 PPG average), 1,020 rebounds, 556 assists, 401 steals and 90 blocked shots at Miami.

Then as a rookie in San Antonio, she averaged 5.6 points and 17.1 minutes of playing time. Her second year, she started to blossom, starting 24 games and averaging 11.0 points and 27.3 minutes. But last year seemed more like her first season, as she no longer started and was averaging 10 minutes less per game.

Which was why news of an impending trade to Indiana perked up Johnson. She quickly heard from various Fever players, including Tamika Catchings.

"You can tell that everybody there knows what is happening and what is expected with that team," Johnson said of her perception of the Fever even before she arrived. "I immediately felt accepted."

Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said she sees in Johnson a player who has taken advantage of more time on the floor to show what she can do.

"I was a fan of Shenise out of Miami, for sure," Reeve said. "She was a skilled player, and I thought she would be a good WNBA player. It's hard to develop players from the bench, because it isn't until you're in the trenches with them, in the heat of the moment in games, that you really learn about a player.

"Where they develop is overseas. And it also depends on which team you're on."

Johnson definitely has improved with her overseas experience, something that Minnesota guard Renee Montgomery said she noticed because they faced off in European competition.

"Everybody in this league is a talented player, but it depends on how the team is able to use you," Montgomery said. "In Indiana, she's gotten a chance to show what she can do."

While Johnson has quickly come to feel at home in Indianapolis, she acknowledged that Rochester will always be her real home. She is a fan of another very accomplished female athlete from that city, soccer star Abby Wambach.

"She does a lot of things in the community," Johnson said. "She definitely is someone I look up to and want to follow in her footsteps."

Between the WNBA and overseas seasons, Johnson has just handful of days to go back to Rochester. But the city remains in her heart. She thinks particularly of the people -- her mother and siblings, her teachers and coaches -- who stayed patient with her when she was growing up. And she also feels closer than ever to her dad, saying that their relationship now is "flourishing."

"When I look back, I am also thankful for the three years I had in San Antonio," Johnson said. "Because I was able to observe and learn. I was playing with Becky Hammon, and got to watch her walk the walk and talk the talk. Now I'm playing with somebody like Tamika Catchings, who is the same way. This is a great place for me."

Johnson felt tears well up Sunday just before the start of Game 1, as the national anthem was being sung at Target Center. The emotions didn't affect her play, as she was pretty quickly all business in the victory after shaking off a little bit of the jitters. But she did allow herself to truly feel it just before tipoff.

"I was nervous -- dreams coming true right before my eyes," Johnson said. "Watching the crowd, the atmosphere, the sincerity. It was just a special moment."

Bookmark and Share

Fever Acquire Shenise Johnson From Stars

INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana Fever has acquired combo guard Shenise Johnson and a 2015 second-round draft pick from the San Antonio Stars, in exchange for the Fever's 2015 first- and third-round draft picks, as announced by Fever President and General Manager Kelly Krauskopf.

Johnson is a versatile 5-11 guard who has completed three WNBA seasons with San Antonio. Last season, she averaged 6.0 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game, over 30 games of action with one start. In 33 games, she was a 24-game starter in 2013, posting career-best averages of 11.0 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists. She averages a steal per game over 97 career appearances and, in 2012, she led all WNBA rookies with a 41-percent 3-point shooting mark.

Currently starring in Turkey where she averages 16.9 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, Johnson was the fifth overall pick in the 2012 WNBA Draft.

The 2011 ACC Player of the Year, Johnson was a two-time All-American at the University of Miami, and a three-time All-ACC selection. She also was a three-time member of the league's all-defense team and started 131 consecutive games in her Miami career, the longest such streak in the country. She owned a streak of 87 straight games of double-figure scoring with the Hurricanes, and posted career averages of 17.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 3.4 steals.

"Shenise is a big guard who can play multiple positions," said Krauskopf. "She has been on our radar since she was drafted out of Miami three years ago. She has a complete arsenal of offensive skills and also fits our defensive identity. Her best years are still ahead of her. We are excited to add her to our backcourt."

"We are thrilled to add Shenise Johnson to our team," said first-year Fever Head Coach Stephanie White. "She is a skilled guard who has tremendous versatility on both ends of the floor as well as an extremely high basketball IQ. Her addition brings quality depth and experience to our perimeter rotation."

In the trade, Indiana receives the 21st overall pick (second round) from San Antonio, while surrendering the 6th (first round) and 30th (third round) selections.

Bookmark and Share

Shenise Johnson has 17 points, 10 rebounds to lead Silver Stars to 70-64 win over Storm

SAN ANTONIO — Without another All-Star in an injury-filled season, the San Antonio Silver Stars had a young player make big plays when needed.

Davellyn Whyte had 13 points and seven assists — both career highs — in her second career start in place of injured All-Star Danielle Robinson and the San Antonio Silver Stars held on for a 70-64 victory over Seattle on Sunday.

Shenise Johnson added 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Silver Stars, who snapped the Storm’s three-game winning streak.

“Knowing that D-Rob hasn’t played a couple games, I know I have to step up,” said Whyte, in her second season.

“I have been watching her this whole year and filling in whenever she needs a sub. I have to go in there, keep my composure and run the team.”

Whyte had three points, going 3 for 4 on free throws while playing the entire fourth quarter for San Antonio, which is going for its seventh straight postseason berth.

Seattle (13-14) holds a three-game lead over San Antonio (10-17) for the Western Conference’s final playoff berth. They have split the regular-season series at 2-all entering their finale Tuesday night.

The Storm are without All-Stars Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson, but the Silver Stars are also missing a pair of All-Stars in Becky Hammon and Sophia Young.
Robinson, who played in her first All-Star game this season, has missed the team’s two previous games — both losses.

“Survival of the fittest, definitely,” Johnson said. “We are fighting, they are fighting. They are ahead of us in the standings and we are trying to get that tiebreaker against them.”

Danielle Adams and Jia Perkins each had 14 points for San Antonio, which snapped a two-game skid.

Reserve forward Noelle Quinn had 14 points to lead Seattle. Tina Thompson and Camille Little each had 11 points and Temeka Wright added 10 for the Storm.

“The better team won tonight,” Seattle guard Temeka Johnson said. “They came out with their business. They came out ready, and we weren’t.”

The Storm shot 36 percent from the field and were outrebounded by the smaller, but more aggressive Silver Stars.

After struggling to get their shots off in the first half, Seattle rallied in the second half behind a more aggressive approach.

The Storm pulled within 56-50 with 5 minutes left in the game behind an 8-0 run fueled by a turnover and a steal against the Silver Stars.

“I think that even when we made a couple of runs, they answered with either getting to the free throw line, hitting a couple of big shots, or getting an offensive board,” Seattle coach Brian Agler said. “They hurt us on the offensive glass quite a bit. That was the big difference.”

Whyte, Perkins and Johnson closed out the victory, going 7 for 8 on free throws in the final 3 minutes while scoring 11 points. Whyte had an assist on both field goals in that run.

“(Whyte has) got a presence about her, I felt that from the first day she was here,” San Antonio coach Dan Hughes said.

“I don’t think in any of our wildest dreams we thought she would be playing 32 minutes in a key game down the stretch. The girl has got something that says, ‘I’m here to play coach.’ I like that about her. Now we are leaning on her awfully heavy. Today was a good opportunity to watch her growth a little bit.”

With Quinn, Thompson and Shekinna Stricklen attacking San Antonio’s interior defense, Seattle went on an 11-2 run to pull within 48-42 with a minute left in the third quarter. The trio combined for 14 points in the quarter.

Whyte had an assist on each of the Silver Stars’ first three baskets as they raced to an 8-0 lead. She added a 3-pointer that gave San Antonio an 11-2 lead.
Robinson missed her second game after straining her right knee at Indiana on Aug. 21.

Seattle only attempted two shots on its first four possessions while committing a shot-clock violation and a turnover.

The Storm struggled to get a shot off against the Silver Stars’ aggressive defensive switches, finishing the first quarter 2 for 8. They also failed to get a single offensive rebound in the opening quarter.

“I thought the way we started out in the first quarter dug us a hole a little too big for ourselves,” Temeka Johnson said. “It came back to bite us. We need to take that from the game and look forward to Tuesday.”

The Storm’s shooting didn’t improve greatly in the second quarter, but they did have six offensive rebounds, including four on their third possession.

Bookmark and Share

Shenise Johnson’s jumper in final minute of OT lifts Silver Stars

NEWARK, N.J. — The San Antonio Silver Stars recovered after giving up a big early lead and outlasted the New York Liberty to get a needed win.

Shenise Johnson’s jumper with 36.1 seconds remaining in overtime lifted the Silver Stars to 78-77 victory over the Liberty on Sunday. Danielle Robinson scored 18 points, Danielle Adams had 16, and DeLisha Milton-Jones added 15 as San Antonio ended a four-game skid.

The Silver Stars (3-5) jumped out to a 13-point lead in the first quarter before the Liberty slowly climbed back and tied it late in the second. San Antonio then pulled ahead by eight in the fourth quarter, only to have New York rally again and take the lead before the Silver Stars tied it in the final minute of regulation.

The Liberty also took the lead three times over the first 3 minutes of the extra period.

“Definitely proud of our effort, proud of the way we fought,” Robinson said. “We obviously let go of the (early) lead but the way we closed the game in regulation and in overtime ... we needed it and we buckled down and got it.

“I’m really proud of how we finished up.”

Cappie Pondexter had 19 points and 11 rebounds, and Plenette Pierson scored 18 points for New York (4-3), which lost at home for the first time this season after opening with four wins. Pondexter also had seven of the Liberty’s 21 turnovers.

The Liberty had three chances after Johnson’s go-ahead basket, but Katie Smith missed two 3s, including one blocked by Jia Perkins with 1.9 seconds left.
“There were a lot of frantic possessions, but that last one,” Smith said, “(we) had some good looks, they missed, we come down, we get a look, I get a good look at one. Plenette gets a great rebound, (we’re) tossing the ball around, blocked shot, game over.”

New York also had a chance to win in regulation, but Pondexter’s jumper at the buzzer fell short.

Smith’s 3 had given the Liberty a 77-74 lead with 2:05 left in overtime, but they didn’t score again. After Robinson’s basket pulled the Silver Stars within one 10 seconds later, officials reviewed Smith’s jumper and confirmed it as a 3.

Pondexter and Kelsey Bone turned the ball over on New York’s next two possessions before Johnson’s winning basket.

“We love that we fight, we compete, we don’t give up, we battle,” Smith said. “But then we also realize if we just took care of the basketball a few more times, we didn’t give up that offensive rebound, we hit that shot, we’d walk out here with a win.

“A couple of things here throughout the game and things could be different.”

Johnson had a layup, and Robinson made a jumper to give the Silver Stars a 55-50 lead with 8:05 to go in regulation. Pondexter, however, made a layup and hit a 3 to tie the score less than 40 seconds later.

San Antonio scored the next eight points and led 63-55 with 5 1/2 minutes remaining. New York rallied again as Leilani Mitchell hit a bank shot, and Kara Braxton made two layups to pull the Liberty within two with 3:41 left. Pierson’s three-point play 45 seconds later gave them their first lead since the game’s opening minute.

Bookmark and Share

Shenise Johnson scores 19 points to beat Sparks

SAN ANTONIO — Dan Hughes wondered who would step up in the absence of his top two players, and the San Antonio Silver Stars coach got the answers he was looking for Saturday night.

Shenise Johnson scored 19 points, Danielle Robinson had 18 and the Silver Stars overcame a big game from Candace Parker in an 83-78 victory over the Los Angeles Sparks on Saturday night.

Parker had 27 points and 20 rebounds to lead the Sparks (1-1), who had won three straight against the Silver Stars.

"A couple of times you could see we had to make a play," Hughes said. "We had to make a defensive play; we had to make an offensive play (and they did). This group is a new situation. Who do we play through, how do we work together? I was just pleased to see them handle that."

San Antonio is without injured All-Stars Sophia Young and Becky Hammon.

The Sparks pulled to 80-78, but Robinson was 4 for 4 on free throws in the final 30 seconds to seal the victory for the Silver Stars. She had missed two free throws with 54.4 seconds remaining after being intentionally fouled by Parker, but Hughes opted to continue playing through his third-year guard down the stretch.

"I knew coming into this season that was going to be more of an expanded role for me, especially with Bec (Hammon) out," Robinson said. "You've got to be able to handle pressure, you've got to take it and enjoy it, and that's what I did tonight."

Jia Perkins added 14 points and Danielle Adams had 12 points for San Antonio (1-1), which was swept by Los Angeles in the opening round of last season's playoffs.

Lindsey Harding scored 18 points and Ebony Hoffman had 13 for the Sparks.

With Johnson leading the way, San Antonio's bench outscored Los Angeles' 36-19 to rebound from a 79-64 loss in its season opener.

"Coach, he murdered us this week (in practice) to be honest," Johnson said. "He murdered us and it showed on the court tonight. He was building our toughness. We came out and displayed that."

The Sparks had difficulty defending the second-year guard, who went 8 for 13 from the field against a series of defenders. Johnson had 12 points in the first half, including an open 19-foot jumper after Jenna O'Hea stumbled trying to defend a cross-over dribble.

"Shenise Johnson's ability to just go get buckets, for this just to be her second year in the league, she's playing like a vet," said DeLisha Milton-Jones, the former Sparks star in her first season with the Silver Stars. "If she can keep that aggressive mentality, it's going to benefit us in the end."

Parker kept Los Angeles within striking distance with an active first half. She had 14 points, eight rebounds and three blocks while playing 10 minutes in the first two quarters. One of the blocks came when the 6-foot-4 post ran down 5-11 Davellyn White from behind on a fast-break layup attempt.

"Candace Parker is just a handful," Hughes said. "At least in that regard we made her take 22 shots, but she's just a hard guard in situations."

Perkins scored the Silver Stars' first nine points as they raced to a 9-2 lead.

Harding had a jumper and a 3-pointer during a 7-0 run, to take a 13-12 lead with 4 minutes left in the first quarter.

Five different players scored as San Antonio opened the second half on 12-0 run that gave the Silver Stars a 57-52 lead.

Harding's layup broke a nearly four-minute drought for the Sparks, and sparked a 13-0 run that pulled them to 57-55.

"We were scoring, but so were they," Los Angeles coach Carol Ross said. "The tone was set in a negative way on the defensive end, and we were just in a fight and in scramble mode pretty much throughout the game."

Hammon missed her second straight game with a broken right middle finger. She sported a purple cast while sitting on the bench throughout the game.

Bookmark and Share